I sit here staring at my laptop willing for words to come to me. I am absolutely broken and horrified. It is September 2, 2019, and a man who works at post office just confessed to the rape and murder of 19 year old Uyinene Mrwetyana, a student at the Universtiy of Cape Town. Yet again another hashtag has been made to protest this merciless act of violence. It has been a week since her friends started circulating the message that their friend Uyinene was missing. It has been days of her friends and family and the online community campaigning and searching for her, hoping and praying that she would be found alive, safe.
This is not the first time this has happened and sadly it doesn’t seem like it will be the last. Femicide is on the rise in Africa and no one seems to do anything about it apart from feminists. And even then, how much can we as feminists and activists really do to highlight the issue and bring about change, end the violence? In 2018, marches were organized and led by feminists in Kenya, Uganda and South Africa raising awareness on the plight of women, the violence we face on a daily basis, the way our lives are so easily disposable, meaningless.
Feminists and activists have urged our governments to declare femicide and GBV in general a national disaster so that it is a matter that is given the urgency it requires. The hesitation of our governments have to do this just proves how much they don’t care about women’s lives, women’s rights. Then again, how can they stop violence when they themselves are perpetrators and abusers too, they have to protect each other.
We live in a society led and governed by men, making laws for the benefit of men, protecting men from accountability when they harm women. After all, wasn’t Sharon Otieno, a pregnant 26 year-old student in Kenya murdered by a governor who was set free and still holds office, holds power?
How can we expect protection and laws that require men to be accountable for perpetrating violence when these same men are the ones holding power?
We write countless articles on the need to humanize womxn’s bodies, the need to grant womxn their own autonomy, we organize sensitization workshops, we organize marches, we march and we shout till our voices are gone, we plead with authority bodies, yet still there is news of a womxn’s rape or murder every single day. Why does the world hate women so much?
The man that confessed to raping and killing Uyinene showed no hint of remorse or guilt as he gave his confession to the police, even went ahead to complain that she took too long to die. See our lives are nothing, they hold no meaning, and men can do whatever they want to us and feel no emotion about it whatsoever. The system is against us. The patriarchy allows for all of this violence against women to be perpetuated.
People will come up with all sorts of suggestions of things womxn should do to feel safer and protect ourselves. We should take up self defence classes, we should walk with pepper spray and tasers, we should walk in groups, we shouldn’t walk at night, we shouldn’t dress provocatively and so many other snide suggestions. While the thought behind it may be from a genuine place, the truth of the matter is that there is nothing we can do as womxn that can guarantee our safety.
Weren’t womxn in groups raped as they left the Global Citizen concert? Wasn’t a professional boxer killed by her boyfriend? What is provocative about the three year old that was raped and murdered? Nothing we can do can guarantee our safety except for men to actually put in work and effort to end violence, to call each other out, to acknowledge our humanity, and not because of our relationships or proximity to them, but because we too are human beings deserving of equal treatment, protection and enjoyment of our rights.
Men take offence when we say men are trash, the very hashtag that was born out of rage at the sheer levels of femicide. People come in with remarks such as ‘not all men’ or ‘what about your father?’
Are we not also violated by the men in our lives, the men we’ve put our trust in, the men who should be our protectors?
We know that there are decent men out there, but men are trash is not about those individuals but men as a collective being the oppressors of womxn, the enablers of violence against women, the protectors of our violators and abusers. There is an urgent need to dismantle patriarchy, to end men’s entitlement to our bodies, to have womxn in policy making positions.
My heart is shattered today, not knowing which of my sisters will be next. Or maybe it will be. I write this of Uyinene, I write this for Sharon Otieno, I write this for Ivy Wangechi, I write this for Baby Lee Jegels and the many other countless women who have died at the hands of men because men felt entitled to their bodies. I write this for all of us praying that we aren’t the next ones. I write this for all of us who live our lives in constant fear. I write this for us, womxn, existing in a world that is set up against us, existing in countries that refuse to listen to our pleas, living in countries that refuse to humanize us. I write this for us.